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The Orion

Chico State mentor leads by example, from coaching soccer to coaching life

Head men’s soccer coach, Felipe Restrepo, started coaching at the age of 13. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats

Coach Felipe Restrepo, thrives for an impact even outside the lines of the soccer field. His aspirations for spreading the power of the game are a defining reason why his team has taken three expeditions to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship tournament.

His start, at an astonishing age foreshadowed the results of why he would be named the California Collegiate Athletic Association coach of the year in 2008 and how the city of Chico is resembling the vision he’s had for years.

Even before his playing days at UC Davis, Restrepo was given the keys to his own youth soccer team at the age when most of us were at home playing video games. At just 13 years old, Restrepo found himself the head coach of his younger brother’s soccer team.

At the time, the passionate culture of the soccer world was just beginning to bud in the United States. One of the parents for the players on the team barely understood the basics of the game while Restrepo was a soccer junkie.

One of Restrepo’s most prized awards is the simple plaque he received from his first coaching gig.

“I was 12 and a half, 13 years old,” Restrepo said. “I ran the practices and that was the start. I leave it there as reminder, you know?”

Restrepo played his college career at UC Davis and retained a letterman jacket for all four years with the Aggies. Even while dealing with the restless schedule of a college athlete, Restrepo still found time to coach a club team in Davis. After his time in Davis, he set himself up to stay involved with his passions.

He entered the graduate program at Cal State Monterey Bay and was hired as an assistant. Restrepo also planned to play professionally for a minor league team, but this team eventually folded shortly after he started school.

Restrepo was forced to make a decision from here, a decision that is often hard for athletes to make when the window to continue to play gets smaller and smaller.

“The pros wasn’t the same as it is now, you just didn’t see a career in it,” Restrepo said. “It was either go find somewhere else to play and kind of grind it out, or keep going to school and coach and I was enjoying that. So I decided to stay and I met some wonderful people. They encouraged me to keep going.”

After he received his masters degree in multicultural education at Monterey, Restrepo had his career sights on being a research professor. He went back to Davis to start his progression towards his PhD. Meanwhile he also was named the head assistant under Chico State alum Dwayne Shaffer.

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Felipe Restrepo poses with his team after winning his 100th career victory as head coach in 2017. Image courtesy of Chico Wildcats

During his tenure, he coached a top ten team in the CCAA which eventually was recognized as a division one program. As his stock in the coaching world reached new heights while his superiors also expected him to become a professor, Restrepo found himself with another challenging decision to make.

“I always knew I’d be a coach, but I didn’t set out to do it as a profession,” Restrepo said. “If anything all of my professors were like ‘you’re nuts, stop doing the coaching thing.’ That’s what I was intending on doing, but I just loved soccer so much that I thought, why can’t I just do both?”

The choice was tough for Restrepo as he was sought after for both coaching and professor job opportunities. He didn’t make his decision until he met Chico State’s Athletic Director Anita Barker who shared his the same vision that Restrepo had for the program. He found immediate success in his first year as Chico State’s head coach as he was named the CCAA coach of the year in 2008.

His long journey as a coach stretches into the classroom with the students he teaches. Restrepo focused in anthropology, sociology and identity cultural race theory for the PhD he received from Davis in 2014.

He uses these badges mainly to assist students of color on campus. His specialties in these areas are a key to the soccer program’s graduation success; Restrepo has helped 70 students graduate in his 10 years of coaching.

“The thing that’s been the best for me is that I’ve been able to chase my idea about what I want to do in the coaching world, and I what I believe in about the student-athlete experience,” he said. “The transition from high school to college and helping them get those degrees (is very important).”

Restrepo teaches a leadership class out of the student success center which has helped several students gain motivation for their own aspirations. Restrepo seems to take the most pride in his impact on campus, his guidance for student-athletes and his involvement in the Chico community.

He, along with leading scorer Jeremiah Egujie and defensive specialist Damion Lewis, coach for Chico United F.C., a youth soccer program. Restrepo has been able to touch the lives of over 75 families in town.

“That’s what I wanted, I wanted the program to look like my neighborhood, and I wanted the program to give back to that same neighborhood, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Restrepo is boastful about the lives he’s reached beyond the field largely because he brought his research in the classroom to help others. He strives in making the college transition easier for students of color who are unfamiliar to Chico State.

Even as one the most successful coaches in the CCAA, Restrepo prioritizes giving back to the Chico community and students.

“You want that for college guys, you want them to learn the power of being a mentor, of being a leader and giving back to the sport as well,” he said.

Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @flacko_flame on twitter.

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